Mason Headshot

Nicholas A. Mason

SEE Division

Ph.D., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
M.Sc., San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
B.A., Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY

Office: 119 Foster Hall
Office Phone: 225-578-3078


Area of Interest

My research centers on avian biodiversity. My lab group seeks to understand the ecological and evolutionary processes that underlie diversification in birds, both in terms of speciation and the evolution of phenotypic diversity at different spatial, temporal, and taxonomic scales. We also study how birds respond to anthropogenic activity to mitigate biodiversity loss in a rapidly changing planet. In doing so, our research incorporates an expanding toolbox, including population and comparative genomics, phylogenetic comparative methods, spatial analyses, and more.

While the research questions and topics addressed in my lab are broad and often interdisciplinary, our projects all incorporate natural history collections in some way. We undertake local and international field work to study and document avian biodiversity via general and targeted scientific collecting, and are dedicated to the continued growth and stewardship of natural history collections. In addition to ornithological research, I am interested in pedagogy with the ultimate goal of increasing diversity and inclusion in natural history and museum communities.

Selected Publications

Mason, N. A., P. Pulgarin, C. D. Cadena, and I. J. Lovette (2020). De novo assembly of a high-quality reference genome for the Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris). G3:Genes|Genomes|Genetics 10:475–478.

Mason, N. A., and P. Unitt (2018). Rapid phenotypic change in a native bird population following conversion of the Colorado Desert to agriculture. Journal of Avian Biology 49:jav-01507.

Mason, N. A., R. M. Brunner, C. J. Ballen, and I. J. Lovette (2018). Cognitive and Social Benefits Among Underrepresented First-Year Biology Students in a Field Course: A Case Study of Experiential Learning in the Galápagos. Frontiers: International Journal of Study Abroad:19.

Mason, N. A., K. J. Burns, J. A. Tobias, S. Claramunt, N. Seddon, and E. P. Derryberry (2017). Song evolution, speciation, and vocal learning in passerine birds. Evolution 71:786–796.

Zamudio, K. R., R. C. Bell, and N. A. Mason (2016). Phenotypes in phylogeography: Species’ traits, environmental variation, and vertebrate diversification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113:8041–8048.

Mason, N. A., and S. A. Taylor (2015). Differentially expressed genes match bill morphology and plumage despite largely undifferentiated genomes in a Holarctic songbird. Molecular Ecology 24:3009–3025.

Mason, N. A., and K. J. Burns (2015). The effect of habitat and body size on the evolution of vocal displays in Thraupidae (tanagers), the largest family of songbirds: Habitat, Body Size, and Vocal Evolution in Tanagers. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 114:538–551.

Mason, N. A., A. J. Shultz, and K. J. Burns (2014). Elaborate visual and acoustic signals evolve independently in a large, phenotypically diverse radiation of songbirds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281:20140967–20140967.